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About the Public Health Observatories:

The Government White Paper – Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation – set two major objectives: to improve the health of the population as a whole and to improve the health of the worst off in society. In support of these objectives, the White Paper announced the establishment of a Public Health Observatory in each of the NHS Regions, saying:
“We need a clearer national picture of health and health inequality so that we can track changes over time. Many agencies are involved in collecting and using information about health and disease in the population. Yet in some cases, information may not be available, or may be unreliable … at local level data may be even patchier.”

Yvette Cooper, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, launched the Observatories, on 15 February 2000.

Our main tasks are to support local bodies by:

  • Monitoring health and disease trends and highlighting areas for action;
  • Identifying gaps in health information;
  • Advising on methods for health and health inequality impact assessments;
  • Drawing together information from different sources in new ways to improve health;
  • Carrying out projects to highlight particular health issues;
  • Evaluating progress by local agencies in improving health and cutting inequality; and
  • Looking ahead to give early warning of future public health problems.

Each PHO has regional accountability arrangements using an Advisory Group, Steering Group or Management Board, which, through the Regional Director of Public Health, is ultimately accountable to the National Governing Board, chaired by the Chief Medical Officer.

The Association of Public Health Observatories (APHO) was established in June 2000 to facilitate collaborative working at a national level. It comprises representatives from the nine regional Public Health Observatories and the Welsh Centre for Health. The APHO provides an important link between regional Public Health Observatories and the national governing arrangements and is a valuable forum for both disseminating good practice and for coordinating action across Public Health Observatories. The key objectives for the APHO are to provide:

  • A learning network for members and participants;
  • A single point of contact for external partners;
  • An advocate for users of public health information; and
  • A co-ordinator of work across public health observatories.

The APHO has two officers:
Chair – Professor John Wilkinson
Vice chair – Mr David Meechan

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